Flash floods leave at least a dozen dead in China

Domestic News

Though summer floods are common in China, at least 12 people are dead and more are missing in Sichuan while more heat waves are predicted in other parts of the country.

Illustration by Alex Santafé

Flash floods caused by heavy downpours have left at least a dozen people dead and six people missing in the southwest province of Sichuan, state news broadcaster CGTN reported on Sunday.

About 1,323 people were evacuated as of 8 p.m. on Saturday, and around 22,300 people in the western part of the country have been affected by the rain, which has damaged houses and blocked roads.

  • Beijing on July 10 raised a Level 4 emergency response and the next day allocated 270 million yuan ($40.32 million) from its central natural disaster relief funds to help local governments with flood control and drought relief work.
  • The China Meteorological Administration also raised the blue alert for rainstorms in some regions, after issuing its red alert earlier in the summer. The nation operates on a four-tier color-coded weather warning system: Red represents the most severe warning, followed by orange, yellow, and blue.
  • Across Sichuan’s northern border, Longnan City in Gansu Province reported another six deaths and evacuations of over 3,000 people. Maximum rainfall reached as much as 98.9 millimeters (3.9 inches) in the worst-affected areas, almost double the July average.

Summer floods are common in China, particularly in the low-lying area of the Pearl River Delta, which is one of the most densely urbanized — and economically dynamic — regions in the world. However, recent trends point to conditions that are “relatively worse” and “more extreme” than before, China’s National Climate Center said in April.

Meanwhile, sweltering heat waves that have hit large swathes of the nation are expected to return and remain until late August. The second phase of the traditional Chinese calendar’s sān fú 三伏, or the three annual 10-day stretches of the hottest spells in China’s summertime, is expected to double to 20 days from July 26 to August 14.

  • Temperatures between 39°C and 42°C (102.2°F to 107.6°F) are expected in southern China after July 20, including the provinces of Jiangxi, Zhejiang, and Fujian, per the China Meteorological Administration on Sunday.
  • More than 70 weather stations across the country reported record temperatures last week, with some factories asked to curb production at peak hours to reserve power for residents to cool down.

China is only one of the many places around the world suffering from extreme weather this summer: Portugal, Spain, France, Greece, and Morocco are fighting forest fires across tens of thousands of hectares amid a similar heat wave this past week. Further north, the United Kingdom declared a national emergency and released its first-ever red warning for exceptional heat, with temperatures expected to reach up to 41°C (105.8°F) over the next two days, breaking the country’s heat records.

Nadya Yeh